25 Jun 2018

Coca-Cola Amatil NZ's Big-Picture Thinking on the Road to HR Innovation

It's no secret that Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) NZ are pioneers of continuous improvement. When it comes to technology advancement in HR, the company is actively engaged in initiatives to drive these innovations forward in a way that benefits the organisation as a whole.

The company has a clear roadmap which supports HR digitisation, whilst also increasing humanisation in the workplace through empowered leadership. Within the roadmap they have been clear about the need to translate the value of proposed technology advancements to the rest of the business. Any new implementations and innovations need to realise commercial benefits for the overall organisation, and the broader business needs to be culturally bought-in on the advantages of these changes.

Susan Lowe, General Manager People & Culture at Coca-Cola Amatil Pacific will be presenting on stage at HR Innovation & Tech Fest this year. She'll be taking the audience through a Coca-Cola Amatil NZ case study, outlining the process of setting up a roadmap to innovation while ensuring the translation of HR technology benefits for the overall organisation.

We recently interviewed Susan and captured some of her insights into HR innovation roadmapping, including her decision to appoint an HR Technology & Innovation Manager to drive real HR-business engagement.

Tell us about your journey in the HR space. What aspects do you enjoy most about your job?  

The first half of my career was not in HR at all but in business operations. For 9 years, I worked for Sainsbury's (the supermarket chain) in service operations roles across the UK. Ironically, it was this experience outside of HR that has driven and significantly shaped my view of HR today.

I've been quite fortunate in my HR career to have worked within a variety of different industries ranging from fitness to FMCG. Each role had its unique challenges. I've enjoyed seeing the differences but also surprised at some of the similarities of HR challenges within each role.

What I enjoy most is the varied conversations I get to have on a daily basis, for example I could be talking to my HR leadership team on Monday about the future of work and our executive team about sustainability on Tuesday. I also enjoy helping shape the business for the future.

Where did you start when setting up the roadmap to innovation at Coca-Cola Amatil?

It can be overwhelming when starting a new role – it feels like there are a million things to do! I prioritised getting a solid understanding of the fundamentals of our business – the operations, the culture and our people.  

Understanding those fundamentals of what makes our business tick made it easier to avoid “translation trapsâ€' – it's not as simple as lifting innovation from one business and plugging it into another. Often times the context is completely different so you need to have a good grasp of the fundamentals. And you need a team who are clear on the need to translate the value of HR innovations to the wider organisation – to ensure all solutions are focused within our business context and therefore are set up to be successful.  

To truly enable an internal partnership with HR stakeholders and externally across the organisation you established an HR Technology & Innovation Manager role. What does this role entail and how does this leader bridge the HR-business divide?

The HR Technology & Innovation Manager role requires a unique skill set of being both a tech expert and an HR professional. Our HR Tech & Innovation Manager demonstrates the ability to utilise technological solutions to increase humanisation in the workplace whilst enhancing our HR offering – something she is hugely passionate about. It's a fine balancing act.

Ultimately, I see this role bridging the HR-technology divide and driving HR innovation. In my view it is the HR business partner's purpose to work alongside the business to ensure there is no HR-business divide. The role entails understanding the current business environment, including existing technology solutions in play, and gathering feedback from the business on the opportunities to improve operations through technology advancement – all through the lens of HR innovation.

What advice do you have for leaders who are tackling the task of translation of technology advancement?  

Based on my experience, I would offer 3 tips:

  • Research to understand what other businesses are doing and – importantly – why. Understanding what is going on not just in HR but in your industry around the globe will help shape your understanding of what is possible.
  • Have a long term view. Think about the future of your business and what will make sense and what won't in years to come. Consider where your business is heading, the strategy for the future and think about what this means for the future of work in your organisation.
  • Contextualise your tech solution, carefully considering what it should look like for your business. Just because technology is cutting edge, doesn't mean it fits with your organisation. This is the key for translation, adapt to fit, ensure any solution is fit for purpose for your organisation's context.

How do you get the innovation mindset to permeate company culture?

Innovation is an important part of our company culture. Our values support innovation and our clear mission and vision drives people across the business to innovate. We're constantly looking at ways of improving what we do from both a business as usual perspective, and innovation beyond our core offerings.

For example, we've recently launched Amatil X, a platform to support the development of concepts, start-ups and early stage businesses that anticipate and address customer need. At the centre of Amatil X is AX Ventures, a multimillion dollar corporate venturing program, set up to invest in future revenue growth opportunities outside of Amatil's core – and beyond innovation in beverages, which sits within the core business.

Importantly, the programs within Amati X are not open to proposals for new beverages, and do not compete with existing innovation pipelines provided by brand partners including The Coca-Cola Company.

Instead, there are three broad themes:

  • Millions of moments of impact: concepts for creating a sustainable future
  • One step ahead: concepts for redefining the customer experience; and
  • Route to me: concepts for exploring alternative ways of getting customers what they want, when and where they want it.

The programs will leverage Coca-Cola Amatil's ability to rapidly test and validate relevant ideas and prototype solutions which improve the customer experience or create potential revenue streams.

Hear more from Susan at HR Innovation & Tech Fest, 23-24 July in Auckland.

About the Speaker

Susan Lowe

Susan Lowe is the General Manager People & Culture at Coca-Cola Amatil Pacific. Susan's 19 year career has spanned Operational Management, Generalist HR Management as well as Learning and Organisational Development Management roles across the diverse FMCG, Retail and Trade sectors both here in NZ and the UK.

Susan is fervent about all things people but specifically growing capability, managing talent, having innovative approaches to career and development as well as future proofing organisations through learning and culture.

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